Since Colorado is lucky enough to have so many scenic places, some of these places close to home see few people. There is no shortage of scenery on these local trips and less people gives me the chance to see some wildlife.
Turkey Rock is a place I visit occasionally for a quick hike. Turkey Rock is located on BLM land in Howard, CO and only a ten minute drive from my house. The area is known to some as a trial dirt bike destination but outside that community it seems to relatively unknown by anyone but locals. Driving through Howard on US 50, the cliffs and small craggy peak of the area are visible but most people are probably looking at the other direction at the peaks of the northern Sangre de Cristo Range and miss the area.
There are several interesting features at Turkey Rock that are appealing. The first area of interest is the rocky formations. I usually scramble over the rocks following the path of least resistence and avoiding cliffs. There are several informal trails that can be followed but generally the area is trailess. After traveling around and over the rocks, the only formal trail in the area is reached.
|One of the jumbles of rocks in the area|
|More interesting rock features|
|The first view of the cliffs at Turkey Rock|
North of the trail is the real area of interest. Standing out is the cliff band that is visible along the road. From the front side, the shear cliffs rise over 100 feet. At the end of the cliff band is the namesake Turkey Rock. From below, the fractured cliffs resemble the profile of a fanning turkey. Since the Turkey is near the end of the cliffs it doesn't stand out from the highway but if you know where to look, the 50 foot or so tall turkey profile is visible.
Behind the cliffs the terrain slopes into the back of rocks. It is possible to climb to top of the cliffs without any gear. The scramble isn't for the faint of heart as there is a 100 foot drop on the other side and depending on the route is still a class 3-4 climb. The views from the top of the cliffs are impressive with a grandstand view of the Twin Sister summits and neighboring peaks. Looking up the river valley, Shavano, Antero, Princeton, and their neighboring peaks are visible. Down the river the Cottonwood group of the Sangres stand out.
|Sangres view from the top of the cliffs|
|Southern Sawatch Range with Shavano and Antero|
Standing behind the cliffs is a small peak that rises about 700 feet above the river valley. From the valley it h nearly resembles a volcano. I usually climb this peak when I visit Turkey Rock for even better views. The peak is relatively steep but moderate scrambling up the front ridge isn't too bad. From its small flat summit, the 360 degree views make the short scramble worthwhile. The views are further reaching than from the top of the cliffs.
|Jumble of rocks approaching the peak|
|Looking down on the cliffs|
|View of the Sangres from the summit|
|Summit view of southern Sawatch Range|
|Another look toward the Sangres|
|Looking north from the summit|
|Another look over the cliffs toward the Sangres while|
descending from the peak.
|Looking back toward the peak and cliffs.|
I finally decided to explore the area on foot a couple weeks ago while Puma was at a work meeting. The trailhead is only a mile or so southeast of Salida at the Living Waters Church. A trail leads from the parking lot onto BLM land and into Castle Gardens.
Although the area once was accessible by vehicles, now only foot traffic is allowed. The trail leads into a large wash that is usually dry. Once in the wash you, can follow the wash ,or continue on the trail. The trail eventually ends however. The area is a small basin enclosed by steep banks on three sides so you can't really get lost.
I followed the trail until it faded before following the various washes taking the path of least resistance. The footing is very sandy and loose in the area. It doesn't take too long before reaching some interesting formations. Spires are visible after only a few minutes of walking. Small canyons line some sections of the main wash.
|A spire early on the walk in Castle Gardens|
|Looking up the basin early on the hike|
|The trail is visible on the right and the|
northern most peaks of the Sangres.
|The terrain gets more interesting the further you hike.|
|Interesting erosion in the sand|
|The interesting sand patterns go from the rim to the basin|
|One of the more interesting areas|
|This area has many small hoodoos|
|This part of Castle Gardens has many|
interesting sand features
|Another neatly sculpted section|
|Looking down on hoodoos|
|Closer look at the hoodoos|
|The most dramatic spire|
|Ridge I followed to the rim|
|Close up of the Sangres with heavy snow cover at the end of May|
|View from above of Castle Gardens|
|The Sawatch Range from the rim|
|Several ridges leading from the basin|
|Ridge I descended back into basin|
|View toward the northern end of Castle Gardens|
|Traveling down the main wash|
|Continuing down the main wash along some steep walls|
|Cave or mine entrance|
|Close up of entrance|
If I'm in the mood for a quick trip on my bike, I often ride along the Arkansas River. While US 50 travels along the river in Bighorn Sheep Canyon, the other side of the river has a small road as well. While part of the road is maintained dirt, much of the road is a rougher BLM road. The road is often just a few feet from the river with decent views of the canyon and the northern Sangre de Cristos. There is the occasional wildlife sightings along the river as well.
Since the river is only 5 minutes from my house, it makes a nice couple hour bike ride close to home. On my most recent ride there, I traveled about 10 miles up river to Wellsville and back. While there are plenty of more exciting rides in the area, I did get some photos that I would like to share.
|Bull Snake on the road|
|Bull Snake coiled|
|A pair of bighorn sheep ewes|
|Blooming cactus near the river|
|Heading down Wells Gulch on narrow dirt road|
For another little know destination in the Salida area you can also visit Wellsville Arch (Very close to where I photographed the sheep.) To read about Wellsville Arch click the link below to see a visit to the area last fall..
Wellsville Arch- A Quick Outing Close to Home